Australian and New Zealand government ministers will discuss the possible legalisation of hemp as a food at a Food Regulation forum in Hobart today.
As AAP reports the forum, which will also discuss other issues like country-of-origin labelling, will be chaired by Australian Health Minister Fiona Nash.
Hemp is different to other varieties of Cannabis sativa, commonly referred to as marijuana. Hemp contains no, or very low levels of THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical associated with the psychoactive properties of marijuana.
As such, and given that it is safe for human consumption, there is broad support within the farming community to legalise it.
Historically, the plant has been used as a source of fibre and oil. Hemp seeds contain protein, vitamins and minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seed food products may provide an alternative dietary source of these nutrients.
Hemp oil also has medical applications. For example, last month a New Zealand teenager Alex Renton was granted special permission to use it as a treatment for a severe form of epilepsy.
In February, Australian and New Zealand ministers decided to maintain the ban on low THC hemp as food because of concerns about law enforcement issues. The feeling was that police drug testing would be compromised by the legalisation of the product.
In addition, it was felt that the use of hemp in food would send mixed messages about anti-drug initiatives in the two countries.